A wide shot of the Andes Mountains with a snow covered Mt. Ausangate in the center. The 2020 team of eleven are hiking in the foreground on a beautiful day.

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The hardest part of losing sight
30 Nov
By 2020
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By Randy Pierce

Life, just like blindness, has both challenges and rewards aplenty. For me, it is not blindness which is hardest but the transition through loss of sight. When things we might normally achieve by one means cannot be done by the same approach we can either be frustrated or quest for another solution.

“Change is the hardest part.” – Tom Petty

When fully sighted, I travelled virtually anywhere with seeming ease, provided there was sufficient light. When there was not enough light, I didn’t stop my travel–instead, I found ways to provide the illumination to again travel easily. As my optic nerve began to die and my visual field became restricted into a tunnel, new challenges arose and my ease of travel decreased. I learned to both use a cane and to scan differently so as to be more aware of the obstacles my eyes previously noted in a glance.

With the practiced approach to those techniques, I again moved around with relative ease. Each stage of decrease in my sight required me to re-learn a host of routine tasks with different approaches. Even total blindness simply changed the manner I needed to manage getting around various environments.

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
– John F. Kennedy

There are many things which remain more difficult for me than in the days when I could see. Yet the more I undertake and practice solutions, the more natural my interaction with the challenging times becomes. My first hikes in the mountains were slow, tedious, and fairly mentally draining. As such I was surprised when a friend watched “Four More Feet” and commented that I made it look easy. We both knew hiking blind wasn’t easy, but as with anything it has become steadily easier through the hard work and repetition. It was then Skip Toney shared this analogy which I share often: as a guitar player, he is often asked if playing the guitar is hard and he shares that it is not hard at all… but… learning to play the guitar was a lot of hard work and practice. Thus it is with most things in life: the challenge is most often in the changing.

Another aspect worthy of mention is the actual “loss” part of losing vision. Loss is all too common in our world and that type of change leaves us not only seeking solutions to the things we want to accomplish, but also a grieving for the loss itself. In this there isn’t as easy a connection to seeking a solution and taking the time to practice. I miss the many splendors my eyes brought to me, from the twinkle in a loved one’s eye to the smile of a friendly face or the majestic views of a mountain range.

I also miss many things entirely unrelated to vision which most of us face throughout our lives. There is no solution which allows my beloved dogs Modi or Ostend to nuzzle my hand again. I cannot hear my dad’s cheerful greeting when I walk into the room. Those are real losses. Certainly there are tremendous new wonders which can bring about joy and delight, and yet the loss of those cherished experiences is real.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
– Maya Angelou

I choose to deliberately find and focus upon those marvels which do exist now or can be brought into our lives. I find and fight the strange urge within me to isolate my focus only to the loss. It isn’t always easy and it isn’t always successful, but the more I force the focus to other things the more natural that becomes. There was a time when Quinn’s muzzle nuzzle didn’t warm me as strongly as the absence of Ostend chilled me. Now the delight of throwing a ball or tugging a rope with Quinn is amongst the treasured moments. I only found those rewards by opening myself to the potential ahead more than lingering on the loss behind.

Ultimately, the hardest parts of life for all of us will vary. The moment in which we are struggling with anything may seem most difficult in that moment. The process of ensuring that the present is better involves putting more focus on those positives which do exist then and which can exist in the future. Influence everything you can to the best benefit; when challenges still arise, choose the right response to take you forward in the most positive way. At least for me, that’s how I find a better day in every day.

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